Concern at G.P. accessibility

It has been announced today – 14/09/2020 – that NHS England is writing to all G.P. Surgeries to make sure they are communicating the fact doctors can be seen in person if necessary, as well as virtually.

In a BBC Headline News Article Nikki Kanani, Medical Director of primary care for NHS England, said G.Ps had adapted quickly in recent months to offer remote consultations and “safe face-to-face care when needed”.

She added: “While many people, particularly those most vulnerable to Covid-19, want the convenience of a consultation over the phone or video, the NHS has been and will continue to offer face-to-face appointments and I would urge anyone who feels they need medical support to come forward so they can get the care, support and advice they need – the NHS is here for you.”

SIS has expressed serious concern to Sussex CCG that G.P. Surgeries are not currently accessible to people with language support needs.

We have made a major contribution to Sussex CCG commissioned research (as yet unpublished) on the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAMER people.

Nearly all of the SIS Patient Cohort of 80 who were interviewed using SIS interpreters had experienced the cancellation of health appointments.  Many believe that G.P Surgeries are closed and not delivering primary care.

There was widespread concern amongst SIS Linguists that patients did not understand that they could contact G.P. Surgeries.

“They didn’t understand the nuanced messages and thought G.P. Surgeries were closed completely rather than just not seeing patients in person.   Others didn’t understand the text messages from GP`s or the long answerphone messages”.   (SIS Linguists)

Other patients were not provided with interpreters, reporting that G. Ps would say that they did not need an interpreter, only later changing their minds during an appointment when they couldn`t communicate effectively.

“No, I don’t think so. We didn’t cancel any and none was cancelled by NHS. We had a cardiologist appointment and eye test I think. The only thing is that we cannot access GP appointments now. My husband used to go to surgery and they would book us one if needed with interpreter but now the surgery is closed and we cannot ring them as we don’t speak English. My husband had this weird rash for last two weeks and we can’t get the appointment so we are treating him ourselves with a cream our friend recommended. The fact that we can’t access the appointments with GP has been difficult as we don’t even know what that rash is and what if we need to speak to GP? We can’t speak English”.  (Interpreting support provided to interviewee)

SIS management data shows that in the 5 months to 31st August 2020 G.P appointments for BAMER people with interpreting needs supported by SIS had only `restored and recovered` to 18% of the pre-pandemic period.

Some language communities appear to have been disproportionately affected; Lithuanian, Cantonese, Turkish, Polish, Mandarin and Bengali.

This common experience reflects the stark inequalities in accessing health services reported for those needing mental health support (Source: Mental Health Services and COVID-19 – Preparing for the Rising Tide – NHS Federation & NHS Reset August 2020)

Here are 2 stories of the detailed support that can be required to access primary care:

https://sussexinterpreting.org.uk/sis-stories/customer-care-in-the-time-of-covid-19/

https://sussexinterpreting.org.uk/sis-stories/opening-up-primary-care/

We will be meeting with Sussex CCG Commissioners to seek re-assurance and a response to this urgent problem.

You can read the full BBC article here:

NHS tells GPs they must offer patients face-to-face appointments

Arran Evans – Director – Sussex Interpreting Services